Mankiewicz is making a bold entry into the general aviation aircraft exterior paints and coatings market. Phong Lai, Director of Sales & Marketing Aviation at Mankiewicz Coatings LLC, explains the ambition
Mankiewicz is well known and respected among the airlines and commercial aircraft OEMs for its high-quality exterior paints and coatings. It also offers a fascinating range of durable, attractive, haptically interesting interior coatings, and a variety of materials used to treat aircraft structural components beneath the skin.
Within business and VIP aviation, however, although Mankiewicz has long been a supplier of coatings for the cabin and cockpit, its exterior paint ranges have traditionally been less popular. Now, as Mankiewicz Coatings US Director of Sales & Marketing Phong Lai explains, the company is making a serious effort to change that. There is no doubting the quality of its product, but if Mankiewicz is to elevate its business and general aviation offering to the point where scheme designers and painters think of its name as readily as they do those of the market’s established brands, then there is much to do; it’s a challenge Lai apparently relishes.
“We’re launching a complete exterior product line for the general aviation industry. It’s a very different market to commercial aviation, which we know very well, but we’re applying the strengths we’ve nurtured there to business and general aviation. And we’ll have a colour catalogue based on trials we already completed with smaller colour collections last year.”
Producing a colour catalogue is no small undertaking. It requires considerable investment in time and money, but speaking from Mankiewicz Coatings’ Charleston base, Lai believes he’s ideally positioned to help Mankiewicz break into the world’s premier general aviation market place – the US. “It’s incredibly diverse,” he notes. “We could be working with a small, single-propeller airplane bought for a few hundred thousand dollars, right up to a high-end, multi-million dollar Falcon, Gulfstream or Global.
“But even at the lower end of general aviation, where owners may have less money to spend, their aircraft still represents an expensive piece of equipment and customers expect very high gloss and unique colour schemes. Generally, these aircraft are finished to a much higher standard than a commercial aircraft, with mirror-like gloss and so smooth there are no rivets showing – you might see hundreds on an airliner.
“We’re launching a new product line, based on our proven commercial aviation technologies and high-quality finishes, but that’s much easier to apply and has some special features for general aviation aircraft owners in regard to gloss and smoothness.”
Regardless of type and budget, Lai says labour usually accounts for the greatest expense when an aircraft is painted and there are savings to be had through using easily applied systems that nonetheless guarantee great results. “For airplane owners, the Mankiewicz system means they get a beautiful, long-lasting high-gloss shine and brilliant colours, yet it is far more forgiving from the painters’ point of view. We benchmarked against the incumbent systems in different environments and showed that our system outperforms them when the application environment is less than ideal.
“We tested in a paintshop that didn’t have state-of-the-art humidity and temperature control; in fact, it was little more than an oversize auto paint booth. The conditions in such a facility expose a product’s chemistry to drier or more humid air, and varying temperature, day to day, causing paint to behave differently. We’ve developed our system to be more tolerant of changing conditions, making it easier for the painter and less costly to set up and run a paint facility.”
The system comprises primers, surfacers and top coats. Mankiewicz has paid careful attention even to the unseen layers in the process, employing the same chemistry in its primers and surfacers and therefore enabling ‘wet-on-wet’ application.
“This means the painters don’t have to wait for the anti-corrosion primer to dry before applying the surfacer, saving a minimum of two hours. Once the surfacer is dry, they can begin sanding straight away,” Lai explains, further noting that some general aviation OEMs are already using the system.
“SEEVENAX Surfacer,” he enthuses, “is a particular highlight of the series. It reliably covers rivets in a single work stage and clearly highlights to the painter directly where an irregularity requires more of the coating during painting. Other products on the market reveal uneven areas only after drying, then sanding surfacer has to be applied again and again, in a time-consuming process.”
Overall, Mankiewicz is taking an unusual approach to market penetration, offering the possibility of high-end results from less well-equipped facilities and, therefore, potential savings for the more cost conscious owner or operator. Yet there is more to exterior paint in general aviation than cost and gloss. The story of the customer who wanted her aircraft painted to match a favourite pair of shoes may be apocryphal, but nonetheless demonstrates the individuality desired by even cost-sensitive bizjet owners.
Lai expects to publish the Mankiewicz general aviation catalogue in October or November, with the caveat that COVID-19 could always cause a delay. For paint scheme designers, the ‘colour book’ is often a useful tool for helping owners home in on exactly the colour for their individual stripe or flourish, but Lai is cognisant that some will only be satisfied by a unique shade. “We’re ready to produce any custom colour too,” he says.
Every unique colour is stored digitally so that it can be recreated should the customer wish to use it again or a repair be needed. In either case, paint might be delivered direct from the distributor, via an intermix system, or the manufacturer.
Lai and the Mankiewicz team are working hard to gain recognition for the company’s uniquely performing general aviation paint system. He says the paint catalogue is a great tool for helping nudge the company’s name into the collective conscience of the industry’s scheme designers, painters and distributors, while Mankiewicz’s reputation in commercial aviation precedes it.
Notwithstanding the uncertainties of COVID-19, Phong Lai has serious ambition for Mankiewicz’s general aviation offer. “Our competitors have been serving general aviation for maybe 40 years, but I believe we have the technology and products to break into the market. We have to focus our effort and investment, but now is definitely the right time.”